He came to me like a shadow
before the storm
and I didn’t even know
that I would be the only thing
that would end up being destroyed.
Baekhyun was, in the most normal sense, ordinary. He had an ordinary life, ordinary friends and he had ordinary relationships, well for most parts of it. If there was anything out of ordinary in his life, it would be the fact that he had never actually fallen in love.
Love was, in Baekhyun’s own words, a temporary inconvenience. Temporary because he believed it never lasted and was laced with a shelf life depending on who would give up first and an inconvenience because he believed love limits people. It limits them from achieving their dreams, their potential and most importantly, it limits their happiness.
It was this particular belief that propelled Baekhyun into the world of expensive champagnes and velvet rope parties. He had no time for love, rather, he had no time he would want to invest on something called love when he could instead spend his time on making money.
Most people who knew Baekhyun were surprised by his zeal. Coming from a worse than poor background, Baekhyun had, in just his mid 20’s, established himself as the owner of one of the top 5 gaming companies in the country, and among the top 20 in the world.
And there was no stopping him.
The intercom buzzed inside of Baekhyun’s lavish office and he pressed onto it.
It was his secretary.
“Everyone’s at the meeting room sir” was the lone sentence that sprung before Baekhyun turned the intercom off. Walking over to the corner of the office, Baekhyun got on his self-balancing hoverboard that he had recently purchased because walking around the office building was too time consuming.
For all the ordinary things Baekhyun had in his life, his office building, one might say, was extraordinary. Baekhyun was very particular on this aspect when he was starting out. He wanted an architectural design that was not only sustainable, but also far, far ahead of its time, both technologically as well as aesthetically. Now Baekhyun did not just own the building he was in, but he also owned the building next to it and five more around. In fact, he owned the entire area that could easily be a mini town if one looked at it. Maintaining a staff of 2300 people and the infrastructure to run his business, was not easy. Each building, an architectural marvel on its own, spanned across the sky to about 20 floors, staffing 20-30 people on each. He obviously, sat in the headquartered office, the very first building he owned.
As Baekhyun walked out of his office and proceeded towards the elevator, he was greeted by his staff with several bows but not a single smile. No one made eye contact with him. Ever.
When he reached the elevator, there were others waiting for it already. As the elevator dinged and the doors opened, everyone else stepped aside, making way for Baekhyun who hovered inside and did not even bother to let anyone else in. Pressing the button to the 7th floor, he let the door close as he descended in peace and silence. Absolute silence.
As Baekhyun was going down, his phone buzzed, giving off one long vibration; the indication of a message. He pulled his phone out and saw it was a message from “Nini”.
NINI: Will I see you tonight?
Baekhyun stared at the screen, wondering if he should cancel. Kai, or “Nini” as he had deliberately saved his name on Baekhyun’s phone was someone he had started seeing fairly recently. . They’d been going out for four months now and Baekhyun liked the fact that he wasn’t clingy like the guys he’d dated previously. Although Baekhyun knew this too wouldn’t last long and Baekhyun would back out the moment he saw Kai was starting to get serious, he also knew that going back to an empty house with nothing exciting to do would be what he usually did and for some reason, Baekhyun was feeling a little rebellious today.
BAEKHYUN: Definitely, I’ll even cook.
Baekhyun was, as ordinary as they come but one thing that wasn’t ordinary, was his cooking skill. He was, the best to his and a good amount of others’ knowledge, a terrible cook. Despite multiple failed attempts, three burned down dishes and one burned down house, Baekhyun never really gave up because he had never learned to give up. And even though food was his mortal enemy, he had resolved to cross it over to his own side one day.
He believed he would have been a great cook, probably even a professional chef if only life hadn’t thrown mean punches at him.
Life had hit Baekhyun pretty hard when he was a kid. His mother passed away when he was still grasping the unknown wonders of the worlds at a tender age of 15 and as for his father, he never really knew him. From what his mother always told him and from what he could remember from his early years, was only constant bickering, fights and unending arguments until one day, his father finally decided to abandon them.
Since then, Baekhyun’s mother worked on multiple jobs to provide for Baekhyun and herself. She couldn’t really be at home to teach Baekhyun the various things one needed to sustain in life alone. He grew up on food provided to him by this old lady who lived next to their house and didn’t really like people coming into her house.
Baekhyun did not remember much about the old woman who lived next door to him, but he clearly remember the taste of the food she prepared. He still didn’t know if the food was particularly scrumptious because the old lady was an exceptional cook or because he devoured everything because he was usually so famished that all he remembered was cleaning the plates off before washing and sending them back.
To the best of his knowledge, the old lady lived alone, had no kids and no known family. She passed away not long before Baekhyun’s mother and to his utter surprise, she had left him her cookbook. Baekhyun always thought that she must have felt bad that she wouldn’t get to feed him anymore, and so she left Baekhyun her recipes that could help him.
Little did she know that Baekhyun too would get so consumed in his own little life that he would never actually have any use for it.
When Baekhyun’s mother succumbed to cancer after fighting a long, fierce battle, Baekhyun was left with no one. He put himself through school, working part-time at night and attending classes in the morning. He gave up on everything he wanted to get through his education first. His mother always encouraged him to be educated because she herself was not and that limited her options for providing a good life for her son. She didn’t want Baekhyun to have the same fate as her.
Promising his mother that he would make her proud, Baekhyun put himself through hell only to come out as a winner on the other side. By the time he was 21, Baekhyun graduated top of his class and by the time he was 22, the first game he had developed as a part of the college project, sold for $2.7 billion.
Within the next year, Baekhyun had established his own gaming empire, making his company “PreCorYun” the hottest trend in the gaming business.
When Baekhyun stepped out of the elevator, he was met with his secretary, a petite young female whose name was Anne. She stood like a robot with a hot latte in her hand, just the way Baekhyun liked it.
Lifting the cup from her hand, Baekhyun moved forward with Anne trailing after him. He could hear the murmurs and chatters that were echoing from the meeting room that was large enough to hold a banquet reception. Baekhyun almost smiled at how everything would turn silent the moment he stepped in.
Despite everything Baekhyun was and had achieved, he had a bit of a reputation. He was nicknamed “The Devil” among his office staff and also among people outside. The source was his own chosen nickname for the first AR game he created where he went by the name “El Diablo”.
And he was a little devil in all sense. He had created the game in such a manner that it was practically impossible for anyone to reach the final stage. People had spent days trying to breach the final level but it was practically impossible. Baekhyun was the only one who had been able to do that because, well, he was the creator after all.
As expected, a sudden silence prevailed when Baekhyun walked into the meeting room. Everyone stood up and greeted Baekhyun in response to which he just walked over to his seat and sat down, indication that the others could take their seats too.
The people in the meeting room were divided into four categories. No one had actually made the division it was just that the people from the same department preferred sitting with their own team members and it had just come to be that way. There was the Arts team that was responsible for all the designs and presented the first look of what a game would look like. Then there were the Technicians and Engineers who were in charge of everything software related. Then came the Marketing people who did exactly what their department name suggested and finally was the Game Design department who were basically in charge of putting everything together and usually worked with all the departments in unison. There were other departments too but they did not need to be included in the meeting as often as the rest.
Baekhyun picked up the memo for the meeting that was kept in front of him. “Where are we with the Witch’s Hunt game?”
It was not too long back that Baekhyun had come up with the idea of this game, and even he was not sure where he got the idea from. One day he was playing the game that had been recently launched by his company when he suddenly had an epiphany. He wanted to present the idea to his staff but he knew they would praise it even if it was shitty. Thank to him, they had been holding secret ballot system since the inception of the company where every employee who had an idea could present it using a pseudonym of their choice.
When an idea would be chosen in unanimity, the one who had pitched the idea could announce their secret pseudonym to everyone to claim their work which maintained absolute uniformity and no biasness throughout.
Using the same system, Baekhyun had presented his idea using the pseudonym “10 Cold Foil” and when it was chosen by everyone in unison, Baekhyun had announced his pseudonym that matched the one on the paper.
No one was surprised though. Baekhyun was full of such brilliant ideas.
His Idea, Witch’s hunt, was about the user starting out as a hunter, gathering weapons and fighting demons and supernatural creatures. With each level up, the user would gain powers and then turn into a Wicche, then into an Enchanter and finally into Supreme Spellbinder. The user would go around saving people from these creatures and gain more weapons and powers. After all these levels, the final levels would be the fight between the Supreme Spellbinder and the Devil himself. To win the game, the user would have to use all their hunting skills and powers to track and send the Devil back to Hell.
It had been a couple of weeks that Baekhyun had pitched this story and the team had started working on it right away. Today was the day Baekhyun would get to see the progress.
The Arts was the first to present. They had done different versions of the graphical representation of the game and were particularly excited to show it to everyone.
Slide after slide, they showed the characters, the variations in the characters, the setup of the scenes, the elements they would like to include, the weapons and finally the creatures they’d thought of.
“Where’s the Devil?” Baekhyun asked when they were done.
Kyungsoo, the Team Leader of the arts team spoke up. “We’re still working on the design and will present it to you by the end of this week”
Baekhyun nodded. “Change the outfits of the characters as well as the background scenes. It’s very Harry Potterish now. Take it back a few centuries and make it medieval”
The team nodded, taking notes. If that was the only thing Baekhyun had to say, it meant that he liked the rest of the things.
The Game Design team went up next to show Baekhyun the kind of animation they had in mind.
A few minutes into the prototype and Baekhyun asked them to stop. “Make it more Pixar Quality than Dreamworks Quality. Alright?”
The Game Design Team nodded and the technicians and engineers made thorough notes on what Baekhyun wanted.
A few other discussions went on about the marketing of the games they had already released and the updates they would be releasing soon along with the bug fixes that would roll out within the next few weeks.
By the end of it, Baekhyun was moderately satisfied with the outcome of the meeting, especially because it didn’t end up with him screaming his lungs out at the incompetency of the departments. The screaming was another reason Baekhyun was so profusely called the Devil because his screams made people’s souls want to leave their bodies.
Baekhyun had thought that he would leave work earlier than usual, in order to prep for the dinner. But work held him back and before he could realize, it was already 7 in the evening.
“Shit” Baekhyun muttered to himself when he saw the time. He had thought of making something special tonight but time was not running in his favour. Pulling his phone out, he decided to text Kai.
BAEKHYUN: Babe, I might have to push the dinner till 10.
BAEKHYUN: Is that all right?
Baekhyun did not know what he was expecting. His past experienced had taught him that people liked to get mad over things as silly as a small reschedule or being held up at work or forgetting flowers and birthdays. None of these things mattered to Baekhyun anyway. He was a strong believer of quality of quantity. Baekhyun could spend his entire life with someone and get nothing out of it or he could live an entire life in a few days and be content before moving on to something more exciting. The latter was what Baekhyun held high in regards.
So even if he knew Kai was just a temporary fling, he would go to the world’s end to make sure he was treated like only he mattered in the time that they were together.
Baekhyun often thought that it was perhaps this that made his dates ultimately fall in love with him, but it was never on his head. He made things pretty clear from the beginning that the relationship would be temporary, that he had no intentions of falling in love and that things would end sooner than they realized. So if anyone was still willing to fall in love despite these warnings, it was entirely their fault.
Baekhyun’s phone buzzed. It was Kai.
NINI: No problem babe. I’ll come by at 10.
Baekhyun smiled. He liked this one. He really, really, really liked this one.
Reaching home half an hour later, Baekhyun checked that he had approximately two and a half hours before Kai would arrive. He presumed it must be enough time for him to cook something. He just didn’t know how edible it would be.
Horror soon struck when Baekhyun opened his fridge and found… nothing. The fridge was empty because he never really cooked. He soon decided to buy some things, hoping the time would be enough. But for him to get ingredients, he first needed to know what he wanted to make.
He remembered vaguely that Kai loved chicken. Baekhyun could, perhaps make chicken soup followed by fried chicken. He was sure Kai would love those.
Getting on the internet, Baekhyun searched for simple Chicken Soup recipes but he was met with hundreds of links that seemed anything but simple. He hadn’t even heard the names of half the things listed on them. What the fuck even were these things called celery and parsley?
“90 fucking minutes?” Baekhyun yelped when he saw the preparation time. “Am I also supposed to catch and kill the bloody chicken?”
Even if he quickly rushed to the store, which was quite far, considering how he had chosen a premium and quiet neighborhood for his residence, it would take him an hour to be back. He would definitely have no time to prepare for anything.
“There has to be another way” Baekhyun muttered to himself.
Suddenly he remembered the old lady from his neighborhood and the countless time he had devoured the chicken soup she had made for him. He then recalled that he still had her cookbook with him somewhere.
Quickly rushing over to the attic, Baekhyun rummaged through things to find the book. Baekhyun really thanked his luck for he did not have many things from back then to search through, because of which the book was found pretty easily.
Brushing off the mounts of dust the book had gathered, Baekhyun took it with him to the kitchen.
He noticed that the book looked older than he had imagined. Almost ancient if anything. The letters that canvassed the cover were in gold, but somehow rusty.
He flipped through a few pages and realized that none of the pages had any titles and most of them contained weird things that he wasn’t even sure could be categorized as food.
He turned a few more pages before he landed on something he thought he recognized. Strangely enough, the book contained more images of the ingredients than actual letters. His eyes then fell to the letters “fifteen minutes” and he exclaimed in joy. This would not only save time but would also ensure that Baekhyun cooked pretty decently considering how everything was so simple. All he needed was one whole medium sized chicken, a few herbs and… “Blood?”
Baekhyun repeated the word once more to understand if he was reading the right thing.
“Whose blood?” he further went on to ask and then began laughing.
“Of course chicken blood. Why would one use human blood for chicken soup? Or any soup for that matter?”
Clearing his throat over his own grim thoughts, Baekhyun rushed over to the supermarket to get the herbs and other ingredients and then over to a poultry farm to get a chicken and its blood, which earned him a very weird look by the farm owner.
Even then, Baekhyun did not question anything because he did not know shit about cooking and would probably cook a brick if a presumable cookbook told him to do so.
When Baekhyun reached home after getting everything he needed, he immediately set off to get the work done before Kai could come.
He glanced at the book that was kept in the left corner of the kitchen top.
The first image was of what looked like a cauldron kept on crackling logs of wood. He presumed the book was ancient and they probably did not have pots or stove back then and hence had to make do. Placing a big stockpot on the inducting surface on the counter, Baekhyun began pouring water into it. He had to fill the pot halfway through according to the diagrams.
The next step confused him utterly. He’d had chicken soup multiple times, none of which were his own creations, but he was sure they never involved adding the whole chicken into the boiling water. But who was he to question the wisdom of an old lady who cooked like she could put an end to world hunger.
Without thinking further about it, Baekhyun added the whole chicken into the boiling water. The water simmered down immediately. Next step was to add the herbs so one after the other, he started throwing them into the pan in whatever quantity he thought should be enough because the book did not mention any details about how much would suffice.
Even though the temperature of the induction cooktop way above boiling point, after Baekhyun added the herbs, the water went down to a state of stillness. It was odd and Baekhyun thought the induction was broken but upon checking, he realized that it was functioning properly.
He did not really understand what he was doing so he proceeded further. There was only one thing left. Adding the chicken blood. Although a little grossed out by it, Baekhyun still did not question the oddity of the situation. Somehow, to his mind, it all made sense. He felt like adding the blood would bring his soup to its finality.
Taking a deep breath, Baekhyun poured the entire bowl of blood he had scored with a look of suspicion from the farm owner.
The moment the blood dropped into the stockpot, the water started rising up to a boil.
It was oddly satisfying to watch for some reason and Baekhyun marveled in the glory of what he thought was a successful cooking session. But the water kept on rising until it reached the edges of the pot.
Afraid that it might spill, Baekhyun turned the induction off, but to his surprise, despite no heat being supplied to the pot, the water, mixed with blood, kept rising until it started to drip from the edges.
Baekhyun rushed to find a piece of cloth to wipe of the spilled soup as it was beginning to make a mess. Picking up a cloth from one of the kitchen drawers, Baekhyun turned towards the pot and began cleaning the surface. The said soup was still spilling and Baekhyun reached for the edges of the pot. In an attempt to clean the edges, a drop of hot liquid, from the wretched mixture that Baekhyun had concocted, fell on his finger, making direct contact with his skin.
The moment the contact was established, a loud bang crashed through the air that almost sounded like the thunder roaring from the sky.
He wondered if it was about to rain. With this thought in his head, Baekhyun swerved to his right to keep the cloth in the kitchen sink when his heart stopped and his breathing hitched.
Instinctively, he picked up a knife from his right and held it against the human like thing who had suddenly appeared out of nowhere and was now staring at him with a strange look on his face.
“Who the fuck are you? And how the fuck did you get into my house?”
What scared Baekhyun was not the fact that the thing was a stranger and that he had somehow managed to get into Baekhyun’s house and would probably murder him. What actually scared Baekhyun was the fact that the thing had no skin. It was all red, like the color of blood. It was as if someone had turned his skin inside out.
The odd creature still remained unmoved and unable to take his eyes off of Baekhyun and it scared the latter even more.
“Answer me before I call the police” Baekhyun said, taking his phone out using his free hand. “Who are you and how did you get in?”
“I am the Devil” the thing said in absolute shock. “How the fuck did you summon me from Hell?”